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I was wondering what the literal translation really means. I've seen it translated as I'm home but I've also seen it in a few situations where the person wasn't arriving home.

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Almost certainly a duplicate of this one –  Dave May 28 '12 at 12:55
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I'm asking for the literal translation. The other thread is talking about various instances where you can use the phrase. I don't see how my question is a duplicate of his question. –  dotnetN00b May 28 '12 at 12:58

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The ただいま that you say when you arrive home is a contraction of ただ今帰りました. (ただ=たったjust / 今=now / 帰りました=(I) came back/came home /returned)
I think one other situation you're talking about might be where you say 'ただいま', 'Certainly, sir'/'Yes sir, I'll do that right away'/'Yes, I'll be right with you' etc., when someone tells you to do something or calls you, and probably rushes you. I think this ただいま (with the stress on だ and a falling tone on いま) literally means 'right now''right away', like '(はい、)たった今(行きます/参ります)' or '(はい、)今すぐに(します/やります)'

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ただ=たった, I've never seen either of those words (used by itself and at all, respectively). The only words I've seen meaning just are だけ、しか. So is たった a verb or an adverb? –  dotnetN00b May 28 '12 at 23:15
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ただ is an adverb (ただ can also be used as a noun though, like 「ただの人」(ordinary)「料金はただです」(free of charge)), meaning 'just/only', and it is often used in a set phrase with だけ, ばかり, のみ or しか, like 「ただ月が照るばかりだ」「ただ見つめるだけだった」「ただ命令に従うのみ」「ただ祈るしかなかった」. According to my Japanese dictionary, たった is 「'ただ'の促音化(Sokuon-ka. Sokuon is 'っ'/little つ.)」, meaning 'ほんの', 'only'. e.g.「たったこれだけ」「たった今帰ったところ」「たった10円しか入ってない」. –  Choko May 28 '12 at 23:42
    
That's weird. There were two answers here a few hours ago... –  dotnetN00b May 29 '12 at 5:01
    
@dotnetN00b-san, I can still see Dono-san's answer, which was posted 16 hrs ago and deleted 5 hrs ago. I think you can see it too...? (I don't know StackExchange's system very well, but I have been able to see all deleted answers in JLU since last month or so...) –  Choko May 29 '12 at 5:56
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@Chocolate when you get to 2000 reputation points you get access to the moderator tools, which include the ability to view deleted posts: japanese.stackexchange.com/privileges/moderator-tools –  cypher May 29 '12 at 8:38

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